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Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday afternoon we passed the Ressler home and Mascot Roller Mill on Stumptown Road here in Lancaster Country.
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"Even Unto Death"
"For this God is our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death" (Psalm 48:14).
Yesterday we visited with Tommy and Nelma Carpenter who reside in Little Rock, Arkansas. We've become acquainted with Tommy through Daily Encouragement over recent years, so it was an extra special blessing to have him and Nelma visit our home. He also preached in our church service and shared a moving story that we'll share in today's message. He refers to is as "The rest of the story":
Back in the early 1900's singing schools were fairly common in the U.S., having had their origin in American History as early as the 1700's. New systems of music notation, including shape notes, were developed by singing school teachers as an aid in learning to sing by sight without musical instrumentation. Tommy's Uncle Carl was hosting songwriter Eugene M. Bartlett, the leader of a singing school, in his home in 1939 in rural Arkansas. One morning Bartlett showed Carl the music and lyrics for a brand new song he had just written:
"I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory…" He then went on to share the entire song that we now know as "Victory In Jesus". Of course the song has become one of the most beloved hymns of the church and is found in most hymnbooks.
Eugene Bartlett died in 1941, at 55 years of age, two years after he wrote this song. But his wife, Joan Bartlett, lived many more years, in fact renewing the copyright in 1967. When her time of death came the family and preacher gathered around her bedside. They looked on rather helplessly as she was in the final throes of death, her body ravished and completely unresponsive. Expecting to see her draw her final breath they were stunned by her sudden arousal as she broke into song:
I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
At first her voice was very weak, but as she continued to sing the words became clearer and her voice grew stronger. She then sang the second verse:
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
Immediately after singing this verse and the chorus she died. The preacher, at a loss for words said, "I reckon she's singing the third verse up yonder." *
What a way to go! And what demonstration of God's presence and guidance even unto death.
Psalm 48 begins with the phrase, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised…" This Psalm is written by a group of singers known as the "Sons of Korah". Most likely these were temple singers who lived during the period of the divided kingdom.
This Psalm extols God for His greatness, His deliverance, His unfailing love and other divine attributes. It includes a virtual Google Earth-like tour around the wall of the Holy City. "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation" (12,13).
But the Psalm ends with our daily text which empowers us as we transmit the life-changing message of God's truths to our own generation. Let us examine it today, consider its relevance, and receive its assurance:
"For this God is our God forever and ever." This is our great eternal God! This God is our "Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend." Consider His great acts throughout history. Consider the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of Moses, Joshua, Samuel and David; the God of Ruth, Esther, Mary, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel; the God of Peter, Stephen and Paul. Martin Luther, John Wesley, D.L. Moody, Jim Elliot and other contemporaries who stood the tests and finished well. The God of those, so many not recorded in history books, who have stood firm throughout the long history of the church.
In your own life consider those who have walked faithfully with God and impacted your own life. Some are now with Christ; others still labor here below. Let us together with one heart and one voice declare, "This God is our God forever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death."
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, when we consider the saints throughout history and the marvelous saving power portrayed in their lives we're encouraged by their bold example and their consistent enduring walk with You. We recognize these "greats" of the past and those in our own generation who are faithful and powerful examples. They do not build their own kingdom or take credit for their accomplishments. Instead they recognize that it is God alone who deserves our truest praise, no matter our own personal sacrifice. We gratefully declare to ourselves and to others, "This God is our God! He will be forever and ever! He will be our guide even unto death."
*Interestingly the third verse of "Victory in Jesus" talks about "I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.......and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory." How fitting that the third verse would not be sung by Joan Bartlett on her death bed down here, but she would "sing up there the song of victory!" just as the lyrics were written and she would personally experience, from earth's viewpoint!
Brooksyne's further research on singing schools from an online encyclopedia: Singing schools were often taught by traveling singing masters who would stay in a location for a few weeks and teach a singing school. A singing school would be a large social event for a town; sometimes nearly everyone in the town would attend and people would come for miles. Many young men and women saw singing schools as important to their courtship traditions. Sometimes the entire life of a town would be put on hold as everyone came out to singing school. In this way, singing schools resembled tent revivals.
Laura Ingalls Wilder related attending a singing school as a young lady in These Happy Golden Years, one of the Little House books. Her husband, Almanzo Wilder, courted her there.
One common tradition was the "singing school picture" taken of the teacher and students on the last day of school. Many old black and white photographs exist as records of these events from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; genealogical researchers often find these records useful. The pictures were often taken in front of a blackboard with the name of the teacher and date of the school. Some of these pictures show small classes, while others record very large schools.
Singing schools underwent many changes as cities grew and the population moved away from an agrarian lifestyle. One of the most notable changes was the length of schools; at one time it was common for schools to last four weeks. This was shortened over time, and today most of the larger singing schools last for two weeks, though the Gospel Singers of America School of Gospel Music still lasts for three weeks.
Singing schools began to hold less interest for the general public as time went on and could rarely get attendance from an entire town. Instead, schools were attended by interested students from a much larger region. In the case of Sacred Harp singing schools, students usually attended because of their interest in the Sacred Harp singing tradition; in other schools, students attended because of an interest in vocal church music, especially for those churches that maintain an all a capella music tradition.
Here are some photos from our weekend.
Tom and Marsha Neizmik have been our friends for nearly 30 years and had a formative role in the establishment of the church we pastored in Saint Marys, Pennsylvania. They have three daughters, all married and serving the Lord and four grandchildren. They remain active in the church and in other ministries including overseeing a weekly nursing home service for over 25 years. They are faithful and steady, a great blessing to have as friends and coworkers.
I met Tommy Carpenter several years ago when I had a meeting at the office of Al Worthley, my chaplain supervisor in Springfield, Missouri. We are connected through Daily Encouragement Net and I have often been blessed by a thoughtful email or phone call from Tommy. He and his wife Nelma are in the northeast for a missions conference and we were blessed by his powerful message from the Word of God yesterday. We had them over for dinner and then took them on some area sightseeing before they left to see an old college buddy from Central Bible College (where Brooksyne and I also attended). It was Neal Enloe, whom some of our readers will recognize as one of the Couriers. Tommy and Nelma have three children all in ministry and grandchildren preparing for ministry. They are a very friendly, colorful couple and as a veteran preacher he's had lots of interesting experiences.
Here's one that he shared with us personally that I may also use in a future encouragement. They served as missionaries to British Honduras (now Belize) in the late sixties but a health problem prohibited him from continuing to serve on the mission field. He returned to the states and pastored for many years and then in 1994 became the Secretary/Treasuser of the Arkansas District. The next year he was asked to join a mission team for a short-term trip back to Belize. They had a couple of weeks of fruitful ministry but the greatest blessing came as he was leaving. As he was departing to return to the States he went through security at the Belize airport and the agent looked at his name, then looked up at him and asked, "Are you Tommy Carpenter?" Tommy responded, "Well, yes." The man told him that he had come to his village many years earlier (it would have been at least 25 years) and preached the Gospel and he had gotten saved at that time!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental ResourcesClick on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)
"Victory In Jesus" Video This is one of many versions available as a YouTube video.
"God And God Alone" Video I am not sure Brookyne realized this but she quoted from this song in her prayer!
Couriers in a caption above. It's quite inspiring for a group to be singing together for over fifty years. I took the above photo several years ago when they shared a concert at the Mount Joy Mennonite Church, where my friend Joe Sherer served as pastor at the time. The Couriers started singing together in 1955 at the same small midwestern Bible College that Brooksyne and I attended about twenty years later. They are now in their seventies yet could still belt out the music including their acapella rendition of the classic hymn, "I Sing The Mighty Power Of God", which is perhaps my favorite of all their musical arrangements.
There's something else that touches me in this photo. Shortly after we moved to this area in 2001 I met Craig Heisey, who worked in one of the companies that we served as a chaplain. Craig attended this church and made the stained glass cross seen in the background. Craig had a vibrant faith in the Lord and was a blessing to visit. Several years ago Craig passed away.
His son, Chris Heisey is now a baseball payer with the Cincinnati Reds and I saw him play in the playoff series that the Reds just lost last night to the Phillies! I recall how Craig was so proud to watch his son advance in his baseball career but he never did get to see him make it to the major leagues on this side of eternity.
I took today's top photo at the Ressler Mill
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